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Crook (2013)
A decent crime thriller worth watching
10 November 2013
Having seen this at the Ottawa International Film Festival, I can say that this is a film worth checking out if you're interested in a decent crime flick.

The movie follows Bryce, a tough criminal who leans dangerously towards self-destruction. His first scene in the movie has him playing a game where, in the style of Russian Roulette, a gun with one bullet is pointed at his hand. The same willpower and determination which allows his hand to remain steady at that moment is the same kind of energy which keeps him going throughout the film.

Bryce (played by a very competent Adam Beach) finds out that a group of criminals who work for the same boss as he does have been betraying their employer, threatening the stability of the organization. Bryce eventually finds out that this sort of double-dealing is leading him into a series of violent confrontations where his own loyalties are tested.

Elsewhere, the crime boss, Tony Deluca (Luigi Saracino), whom Bryce works for finds threats of his own when a former associate decides that he has had enough, and plans to take over. His prize weapon involves a record of corruption within the municipality's governmental structure. Meanwhile, the associate's own sexual appetite involves a young prostitute named Tricky, who has her own connection to Bryce. Rounding out the list of competitors is the veteran police officer (Bill Lake) who is determined to arrest Deluca and bring down his criminal organization.

The film takes place entirely in Ottawa, where it was also filmed. The cold weather and scattered snowfall are both complimentary to the film's cold portrayal of hardened criminals who talk loudly and react violently. Allegiances are questioned, hasty decisions and rash actions lead to various people being shot, and the struggle for money or information changes for some of the characters to simply becoming a fight to stay alive. The formula of the story is hardly novel to the genre, but any fan of a good crime thriller will find things to enjoy in "Crook".
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Disturbing Realism; A Movie about Genocide
4 February 2010
This is my first Uwe Boll film. I have only ever heard of his movies, which mostly flop and are derided by critics and audiences. Recently, I heard about this movie, and I saw familiar faces in the cast. I wondered if this might be the film that convinces audiences that Boll has ability to make a good movie. I watched the trailer and researched production information behind the project, and all of it seemed to point towards a great film in the making. Boll appeared a calm, reflecting instructor in front of the camera. He spoke about the issues of Darfur and expressed hope that the UN and NATO would finally get involved somehow. All this added to my eagerness to see the movie for myself.

I finally got the chance today. One night in my city, special screening in the cinema, with the assistance of STAND Canada. All the profits this movie makes on this tour will help fund STAND Canada and its attempts to raise awareness of Darfur's genocide.

Let me just say, the film is shocking. The film is ghastly in its realism, and many a time came where my hand flew up in horror and I struggled to continue watching the film. Boll does not tone down anything for the audiences, and gives us a vicious film that is simple in showing us what happens in Sudan.

In the midst of this are six Western journalists, being led by a small group of military units from UA. They take the journalists to a small village where they see for themselves what is happening here in this region of the world. Darfuri speak to them in hushed voices, restraining tears or speaking with quiet resentment towards these people who promise to show the world what is happening.

Much of the dialogue was improvised, and most of the people playing the villagers are themselves survivors of Darfur. The knowledge of this lends an eerie sense of realism to the film, and it is fascinating to see how the American and British actors prepared and developed their characters in the film.

Most prominent are Malin (Kristanna Loken) and Freddie (David O'Hara). Malin is moved by the plight of the people as she asks them questions with terrible answers. Freddie observes the village and the attitude with some hint of disgust at this endless cycle of violence, where both blacks and Arabs are guilty of killing each other. As a journalist, he is relentless, bombarding the captain who is supervising them with questions on why nothing is being done, though he is himself reluctant to put himself on the line for the people. This leads to a revelation in his character that leads to perhaps the strongest performance of the journalists. O'Hara's gravelly voice and his grim face dominate the scene where he is present, and his character develops well as he is exposed to this world.

Also present are Billy Zane, Matt Frewer, Edward Furlong, and Noah Danby. They all give their characters specific quirks and opinions on the topic of Darfur. Zane is emotionally moved by the answers he gets from the villagers. Furlong's character remains aloof and tries to escape the horror of it all emotionally. Danby stares at all around him with a determination to tell this story to the world, while Frewer's character is most concerned with the safety of his camera and taking pictures for his daughter.

What happens next is evident in the synopsis; a group of Janjaweed arrive with an intent to massacre the village. The journalists must decide whether they stay and attempt to protect the villagers with their status as foreigners, or flee to tell the world of what is going on. In two of the strongest performances in the movie, we are given the Captain (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) who is ultimately responsible for the safety of the journalists, and the leader of the Janjaweed band (Sammy Sheik) who has no need for subtlety when dealing with those who oppose him.

The film is brutal, violent, and graphic. The issues it tries to show are real and the film is very effective in giving us this scene of terror and carnage. It is certainly not for all to see; do not come in expecting to feel fine walking out.

Uwe Boll gives us a mighty film about the issue of Darfur, and relating to his previous filmography, I don't care if he made ten times as many flops as he has. All that is forgotten while watching this film, at least for me.
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Cairo Time (2009)
A story of love discovered...
29 October 2009
I've known Alexander Siddig from playing Dr. Bashir on "Star Trek; Deep Space Nine". I've seen Patricia Clarkson in "Jumanji" and "Vicky Christina Barcelona". Both these two actors unite to give us a very touching love story set in the background of Cairo.

Egypt is a timeless land that has had history's touch upon it even as it enters the new millennium. People's lives are bound to the countryside as well as the old cities modernized with technology. Ruba Nadda, a young Canadian film maker, has set her newest story in the city of Cairo. It concerns the clash of two very different cultures, and how the past and present collide to form such a layered city as Cairo. As well as showing us wonderful scenes within the city, we are given exceptional cinematography of the surrounding countryside. The White Desert and the Pyramids stand out, etched out in the land, seemingly by giants who preceded modern civilization.

The film follows Juliette, a middle-aged woman arriving in Egypt. She would have been with her husband, but he is away on a mission for the UN. Her two children have grown up and have moved into adult phases of their lives. She is left to see the city by herself, aided by an old friend of her husband's: the middle-aged Egyptian Tariq, a retired policeman who now owns a coffee shop in Cairo. He helps Juliette out of his friendship to the absent Mark, and Juliette is intrigued by this soft-spoken man. Their feelings inevitably grow into affection, but the gradual steps taken to that stage is what makes the movie so tender and well made. Juliette's explorations of Cairo and the people that live within its shadow give us a view into the foreign culture that lies waiting to be discovered.

If Juliette must carry the movie, she is supported by some well-made characters. Tariq is clearly the prominent of these, but there is also Yasmeen, the former love interest of Tariq who wants to rekindle the relationship, and Kathryn, a kindly woman who leads Juliette on a trip in the White Desert outside of the city. And of course, there is the ever absent Mark, who is continually held away from his wife.

To say that this is a sentimental piece that tugs on heart-strings is redundant. However, it has a life of its own beyond the stereotypes of the genre, brought about by the fantastic chemistry between Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig. The two of them are professional actors and give us a love story that rivals the epic romance "Out of Africa" or the low-key "Lost in Translation".

Ruba Nadda also provides us with a well-written script that feels natural to the actors' tongues and the audience's ears. The mood of the film seems whimsical and light-hearted, especially during the scenes between the two leads, but there is a serious undertone played into the film. Questions are silently presented, aimed against such themes as love, fidelity, culture, and loneliness. Both characters are certainly lonely: Tariq has isolated himself from those that loved him, withdrawing into a kind of politeness that seems to discourage intimacy, while Juliette is isolated from her friends, her work, children, and her husband. Both need human contact, even as both must come to terms with their lives and what has come out of it all.

This small Canadian production has received a number of positive reviews, and has also won the Best Canadian Feature Award at the Toronto Film Festival. While I have certainly not seen all the Canadian films this year, I can definitely say that this was worthy of such an award. English Canadian cinema is so over-shadowed by Hollywood that one wonders if such cinema exists when compared to Quebec's film industry. However, once in a while, one can find such gems as this production, and be content to know that being Canadian means laying claim to truly great films such as this one.
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The Very Definition of Dystopia...
14 September 2009
Late in the film, a doctor tells a story of a group of blind men who each feel a different part of an elephant and give their opinions on what an elephant is: "One felt the trunk and said, 'an elephant is very much like a snake'. One felt the tusks and said, 'an elephant is very much like a spear'..." This kind of scenario truly befits the brilliant film known as "Land of the Blind".

"Land of the Blind" is a very smart film. To say that it is biased is to be ignorant of much of the film; this film has no stated political sides; it points fingers at the fascist dictator just as easily as it points fingers at the violent rebels trying to give power back to the people. The protagonist is a man named Joe, played brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes has been Oscar nominated in the past for playing a sadistic Nazi in "Schindler's List". This performance puts the latter to shame.

In the beginning of the film, Joe goes through the motions of a prisoner, but a prisoner with some prestige it seems. He has his own shower, and a typewriter to use at his discretion. And he uses it extensively, writing down his thoughts of the past and his life. The deadened look in his face haunts us through the film as he speaks of what he has done to earn himself this imprisonment.

Ironically, Joe began as a prison warden, or at least, that's where the narrative begins. The latest man in power, Maximilian II (Tom Hollander) is struggling to keep power amidst the many rebels trying to supplant his status as president for life. This group, known as the Citizens for Justice and Democracy, claims noted playwright John Thorne as a member.

Embodied by Donald Sutherland, Thorne is one of the most interesting characters I've ever seen in a film. Sutherland's lack of accolades for this role is just evidence of injustice in the world. Thorne is in prison, and is routinely abused by vicious prison wardens. His room is so small and filthy (even more so due to the fact that he writes anti-government slogans on his walls with his own excrement). As we gaze at his tattered clothes, his thick dirty hair, we then cut to Joe's look of disgust at this abominable way to treat another man. His meaningful narration, along with the haunting clicks of his typewriter, is the spine of this movie and guides us through events that occur, and Joe's reactions to it all. We also see the character of Maximilian as he calmly sits on the toilet in his private bathroom, his two hapless aides standing by and speaking to him about issues that any serious leader of a government would dare not wish to hear.

On paper, Maximilian is truly a disgusting character, and Tom Hollander adds a special sort of disgust for him. He truly doesn't care about the people at all, until he realizes that his position is in trouble. He takes in the deaths with an air of amused shock, but when he hears of how Thorne's popularity is growing, he turns pale with fury and takes it out on his aides with a sadistic ease.

The film deals with Joe's change in mind set, from the neutral observer just doing his job, to becoming attached to Thorne's plight, and then watching as the two sides vying for power reveal their darkest actions. It is clear that Maximilian is a corrupt man who would rather spend his time making bad films rather than rule the country properly, and Joe finds himself pulled to Thorne's side as Thorne is slowly granted new prisoner rights in the face of a humiliation for the government in power. Meanwhile, the dark eyes of Thorne show us that he is planning something; something that will topple the government and place him as the new leader of this war-torn country. Joe does not see this plot at first, and then is forced unwittingly into the most crucial point of the political struggle.

To say anymore would spoil too much of the film: I leave it up to you to see it for yourselves (thankfully it's available to watch on Youtube as of now). The acting for this film was absolutely brilliant; Sutherland and Fiennes are given crucial jobs, and both deliver their due with ease. Hollander makes a memorable role as the spoilt young ruler trying to live up to his father's tyranny. Also memorable is the presence of Lara Flynn Boyle as the selfish First Lady of the state, and Mackenzie Crook in a very funny cameo as a film editor.

Many writers have become famous for their novels about great plans gone horribly wrong; George Orwell, Michael Crichton, and Orson Scott Card. Robert Edwards, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, should have at least been Oscar nominated for making this kind of film. This is a film that rarely gets made anymore, and that's a pity, because it is a very smart film that looks at the two sides of politics and then asks a deeper question about reality itself.
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A Crazy Patriotic Idea
9 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Scotland remains engulfed in its own history. One can see simply from the landscape that it is an ancient land, of many events and peoples that have led to its creation. One of its most ancient symbols is the Stone of Scone, which was present at every Scottish crowning ceremony until Edward the First (the arch villain in "Braveheart") stole it and brought it to England. In the 1950's a group of patriotic youths hatched a plan to steal it back for Scotland.

The film is quirky and serious at the same time. Ian Hamilton is played by a youthful Charlie Cox, who reminded me of Robert Sean Leonard's character in "Dead Poet's Society". He is easygoing in life, but utterly devoted to his country. This sense of patriotism gives him the need to want to do something great for Scotland, and he is inspired by an old scrapbook article to steal back the Stone of Scone, known as the Stone of Destiny in the film.

Enrolling his friend Bill (Billy Boyd from "Lord of the Rings") into this scheme, the two of them begin an intensive research into Westminster Abbey to take back the Stone. However, Bill drops out of the plan when he realizes just how much is at stake. Ian bounces back immediately by finding a group of other youths to help him. He recruits Kay for her patriotism, who brings in Gavin for his strength and boisterous personality, who brings in Alan for his extra car.

These four embark on a trip to London, and in between the planning of the grand caper, they learn more about themselves in the process. Ian is so steadfast in his own plan that he finds it difficult to realize, as Gavin puts it, that someone else other than him might be right. Gavin himself has been labeled as a party animal and a carefree man that opens bottles with his teeth, and he wonders if he's more than that. Alan is insecure and shy, trying to find something to do that shows people what he's capable of. Kay brings her smarts and her spunky attitude to the group, and on the way develops feelings for Ian on the way. The way they finally acknowledge these feelings for each other is shown in a very funny scene just outside Westminster Abbey.

The plan itself was real, as were the four people who underwent the plan. To say that they failed to bring the stone back is both true and false. True, the stone was taken back to England, false because bringing the stone across the border was half the success. The point of the plan was to show the average Scot that they could be proud of their heritage and be able to unshackle themselves from English domination. While this took yet more time after the break-in, it eventually came about.

As a film, I enjoyed this very much. The characters were presented very well, particularly the youths and Robert Carlyle's character of an elderly professor who tries to win Scotland's freedom through a petition early in the film and provides funding for the youths to travel to England. British humour has rarely failed for me, and this film was able to show the deep motivations for taking the Stone back while at the same time show how crazy of a scheme it really was.

Scotland has certainly need to go to great lengths to show its identity over the years. What other nation's heroes could go from a screaming warrior leading a horde of his countrymen in a bloody battle against the superior English forces to four rebellious youths sneaking through the back door of Westminster Abbey?
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Singularity (III) (2008)
A good start to a potentially great career
29 April 2009
Sean Stone, son of the great director Oliver Stone, has given us his first fictional film. It is the tale of a dystopia future where sickness is controlled by taking away the sick people in secret and out of society for good, seemingly. This short film is called "Singularity", and has been released on the Internet as well as at a few film festivals. While there are faults, I find it a great first film to have in the early stages of your career.

It's not easy to be the son of a famous film maker; the film is based on a short university film that Oliver Stone had made early in his youth. However, Sean presents us with his skills as a film director and a screenwriter in his own right. The film focuses on three people. One of them (Jonathan Charis) is Michael, a government worker who takes infected people away. His friends are Marie (Sinta Weisz) and a questioning writer named Wells (Wyatt Denny).

The film opens with Michael and Marie in Marie's apartment room. Marie is hostile to Michael as he sits in the room, thinking to himself. There is a hidden story between them, but neither of them have to openly talk about it; they're aware of it and each other's role in it.

In a series of flashbacks, this story is told. Michael and Wells dispute the government over a game of basketball while Marie watches. Wells wonders what goes through Michael's head as he takes people away. Michael is hostile to Wells' questions, and it prompts Wells to go further with his philosophy. Michael ends the conversation by telling him to stick to writing.

It's clear that Marie has mixed feelings when faced with the two men. As the film progresses though, Marie grows attached to the inquiring Wells, and is also interested in this plague that has changed their society so drastically. Seeing Marie with Wells, staring riveted as he speaks freely about such controversial topics, we have a bad feeling about what caused her hostility towards Michael in the present-day.

The film is easily accessible at the time of writing this review. I highly recommend it for someone who wants a quick viewing of a good short film. Sean Stone is on the way to great things, hopefully, and will be able to take the good qualities of this film and improve them further as he goes along.
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A fantastic film to see about the life of Temujin
9 November 2008
This picture was made in the hope that a trilogy will emerge from this. "Mongol" is about the early life of Genghis Khan, known only as Temujin before he gained fame as a world conqueror. Made by combined assistance of Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Germany, this is a film that puts epics such as "Troy" and "King Arthur" to shame. It is a wonderful film to see if you want a film that pulses with the culture it's talking about. You watch this film and know that it's Mongolian.

I only wish that they could have had a budget bigger than twenty million dollars, because what they did is enough to rival "Alexander" and "Gladiator". I suppose the movie would have been an hour longer, and it would have had more fighting and more extras, and hopefully they get more finance for the next two films. If they're ever made, at least.

The film begins with a young Temujin in a cage, humiliated as a bandit and common slave. He narrates the story from when he is nine years old and must choose a wife. His father, who stole the bride of the Merkits tribe's chief, wants to make amends and decides that if his son chooses a bride from that land, peace will be forged again.

The procession stops off at a small clan led by a friend of the father's. While they rest there, Temujin is approached by a young girl named Borte, and she suggests that he choose her as his bride. It comes to pass, much to Temujin's father's surprise, but a date for the marriage is determined, and the procession heads for home.

On the way, Temujin's father is given a gift of milk from his enemies, whom they encounter at a resting point. The father suspects that the milk is poisoned, but cannot lose face in front of the rival chief, and he drinks it all. He later dies on the journey home, as his young son stares in horror.

With his father's passing, young Temujin's life as he knew it is toppled by greed and chaos. One of his father's old friends, Targutai, raids the camp of Esugei (Temujin's father) and decides that he must execute Temujin once the boy grows up. He holds Temujin prisoner, forced to wear a yokel around his neck in humiliation. However, Temujin escapes, and prays to the Great God of the Sky for assistance. On the way towards his escape, he meets another youth, Jamukha, who embraces him as a brother and swears an oath of friendship with him.

Years pass, and Temujin is a fugitive, hunted by Targutai and his men. Temujin knows he must gather what is left of his people and prepare to fight, so he finally returns to Esugei's old friend, to accept Borte in marriage. They return to Temujin's family, and Temujin makes contact with Jamukha, now a powerful leader of his clan.

This gives way to the rest of the film, which at times seems hurried due to the fact that there was a small budget for an epic this size, and also time constraints. But the fact that a crew of thirty different nationalities made this in the vast nothingness in the steppes of the East is something that definitely deserves mention. The film is made against the harsh landscape that generations of Mongolians lived off of, and to do it, they had to be the toughest of people, and the odds were stacked high.

Out of this region came the greatest military leader since Alexander the Great. Temujin, known to all as Genghis Khan, has become famous for his conquering, and his establishment of uniting the Mongols under one banner, and setting up a code that his people must live by. It is a fantastic story, and one that is brought to life as it never has been before.
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A powerful film...
13 September 2008
I first heard about this film because of Matt Dillon, one of my favourite actors. He is the second billing in this film, right behind Kate Beckinsale, also starring Vera Farmiga, Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, and David Schwimmer.

The film is about Rachel Armstrong, a reporter (Beckinsale) who has written the story of her life: a military coup by the United States on a South American country was a lie, a Watergate, an operation that could get a president impeached. One CIA agent (Farmiga) had been there before the attack and had reported that there was no need to attack. They attacked anyway, and through a number of sources, Armstrong succeeds in finding the story. When the paper hits, the government realizes that they must find out the original source of Armstrong. Hired to find out this story is Patton Dupois (Matt Dillon), who goes after Armstrong with a ruthless but aloof determination. She is held in contempt of court when she refuses to reveal her source, and she is put in jail. Armstrong's boss (Bassett) and her lawyer (Alda) urges her to keep up the stand she has taken, while her husband (Schwimmer) is angry that she has done this. She herself must cope with the consequences of taking on the government, and the pressure just lays on throughout the story.

Beckinsale keeps the story going easily with her brilliant performance. The story is of course, focused on her, and the effect of imprisonment and interrogation can be seen on her face when she sees her son through the glass of visiting hours, or when Dupois questions her in court. Matt Dillon is also a brilliant actor, and I hope the two of them get nominated this year. However, while Dillon deserves it, I think Alda will end up with the nomination, who is both witty and cynical throughout the court battles.

The film's true strength comes from the fact that it is not a true Hollywood film. There is a tone about it that is certainly not like a usual story like this. The characters are dark, but also with redeeming qualities. Schwimmer's character of the husband does hurtful things, but out of weakness rather than malice. Dillon's character is ruthless in his prosecution, but in truth, he is just doing his job well. Even Beckinsale's character is not the underdog hero that this film could have been about. Thankfully, this movie takes a different route.

It was a real enjoyment seeing this film. Dillon shines as he usually has when I've seen him, and so do Beckinsale and Farmiga. The only over-the-top character is that of Avril Aaronson, played by Noah Wyle, and is thankfully overshadowed by the good performances of those who carry the film.
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Unlike anything I imagined it would be...
7 September 2008
I came into this movie knowing a film that centered around a young girl surrounded by the vicious world of poverty. Her mother is a prostitute, and her older sister enrolls at a strip club, leaving the girl to withdraw into her own emotions.

However, the film was very different from what I imagined it would be. Much footage is used simply with her as she walks through the city, alone and ghost-like. The camera is almost always focused on her. Either it's set over her shoulder, and we feel like we're walking along with her, or it's focused on her face, showing traces of suppressed emotions that she is going through. For a lot of the time, she's just blank, weary from not having time for herself or even her own name. This is a kind of filming I'm not used to seeing, but while it takes some getting used to, it's interesting.

The relationships with her mother and sister are full of depth, and they influence her character in the film. She is forced to take care of both her mother and sister, thereby losing a bit of herself in the process. She does not even use her own name, merely calling herself, the sister of Katia. She must also deal with her grandmother, who cannot speak Dutch and is feeling the effects of senility. Meanwhile, she is the middle person in a war between her mother and her sister. The two constantly lock horns, especially on the fact that Katia has become employed as a stripper. Her mother urges her not to enter the world that she herself is trapped in, but Katia refuses.

One character that she attaches herself to outside of her family is John Turner, a Christian worker who talks to her about Jesus and the teachings of the Bible. She starts to read about the Ten Commandments, and other pieces of the Bible, and continues the meetings with Turner as he talks to other people about Christianity.

While she is doing this, Katia is spiralling further down the road that many in poverty end up taking. She becomes infatuated with an Italian boy who uses her only for sex, and she develops a drug addiction. This adds more to the burden that the protagonist must deal with.

This film is a well done piece of work, but it was awkward for me at times to sit through some of the scenes. Some of her scenes are painful to watch for you sense the vulnerability of her surroundings and her lack of a role model. But I recommend it, for it is a unique style that big Hollywood movies never show you.
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Top Gun (1986)
A movie for the ego
28 January 2008
War. Pride. Speed. Tom Cruise. Enough said. This is a movie either for girls that love Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise, or it is for guys that love action over a storyline.

Tom Cruise plays Maverick, the fastest and most daring pilot in the Navy. He is selected to go to the Top Gun Academy, where the best of the best are trained, to graduate. Coming with him is his trusty sidekick Goose, a likable family man who loves flying.

At the Academy, Maverick meets Viper, one of the training coaches that motivates him throughout the film, Charlie, a cute girl to catch his eye, and Iceman, the rival pilot who is both friend and foe at the same time. The story focuses around Cruise as he goes through the Top Gun Academy.

The storyline is not as strong as one would think. The makers of this film replaced it with scenes of intense flying, volleyball scenes between Kilmer and Cruise, or scenes of romance between Charlie and Maverick. While the airplane sequences are good, I look for more than just that in a movie.

The acting from Tom Cruise is all smiles or pouty frowns. It is Val that provides the talented acting, and he of all people did not even want to be in this film. He was forced to go along with it, and it didn't hurt him, but he is a much more talented actor than Cruise.

I will say this; the music was great. Kenny Loggins made a classic with "Danger Zone". Should have got an Oscar nomination to be honest with you, it's a great song to listen to. It helped create the scenes well.

There were scenes that make me hesitate to criticize it, but there are also the disappointments of this film. It's a Tom Cruise film, one where he can be loved, supported, and admired by his legion of fans. Despite its box office, it does not match with his better quality films like "Eyes Wide Shut" and "Born on the Fourth of July". These films make him famous as a serious actor, while this film is food for his ego and image on screen.

In truth, the film isn't that bad, but there are so many better choices than this film.
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JFK (1991)
Oliver Stone's greatest film!!!
1 December 2007
I have stated many times that Oliver Stone is an incredible film maker whose films sizzle with excellent cinematography, good acting, and original storyline. He makes controversial films that are sometimes unappreciated by the public and the critics. I said and believed all this even before I watched "JFK".

"JFK" is a film that stars many A-list actors in major and minor roles, but they give deep imprints nonetheless. Tommy Lee Jones, the Oscar nominated actor of the film, gives a performance that I almost missed due to my not recognizing him. Jones plays Clay Shaw, a powerful figure in New Orleans and a secret homosexual who knew about the plot to kill the president. Gary Oldman is fantastic as the widely publicized murderer, Lee Harvey Oswald. Joe Pesci, fresh from his Oscar in "Goodfellas", as Dave Ferrie, a man who is struggling to cope with the heavy accusations and mysteries of the JFK murder. Donald Sutherland in an Oscar-worthy performance, as an informant that talks to Jim Garrison, played wonderfully by Kevin Costner. Other great appearances include Kevin Bacon, Sissy Spacek, Michael Rooker, and even Walter Matthau in a bit appearance.

Many of these fine performances were worthy of Oscars, but if there is one man that deserved an Oscar more than anyone else, it would have to be Oliver Stone, who did not win Best Director OR Best Picture. Who did he lose to? "Silence of the Lambs". While I do consider the film to be an excellent thriller featuring one of Anthony Hopkins' greatest performances, I must say that in terms of scope and daring, "JFK" was a far superior film. The cinematography was far more varied and ambitious, as well as the subject matter itself. I can understand why "JFK" was passed over, but the reasons are not fair to the extraordinary film given to us.

The appearance of "JFK" is astounding. You are taken to a time of much distrust, horror, confusion, corruption, and cover-up. The murders of JFK, Martin Luther King, and RFK all influenced the time periods and the peoples. Many people tried not to think about it, or else they were scared into silence. Some, like Jim Garrison, tried to present the truth of "JFK", and their efforts are being felt even now.

Before I saw this film, I had seen Oliver comment that "JFK" was a movie in which he got all the crazy theories and presented them. He was not implying that everything was true, and some of it isn't true. But after seeing this film, I am convinced there was definitely more to the story than was originally told, as I believed even before I saw "JFK". This gave me a knowledge of the period, and awareness of the people participating in the drama of the time.

The point of the film is not entirely based on the story of the JFK assassination. It is an outcry from Oliver Stone to remind us that truth is never simple, nor is it always presented by the government. People must struggle to find the truth sometimes, and if it is covered up, it could be lost forever. The film is an attempt to show us that the murder of President Kennedy was a time of much confusion and mix-up. So what was true and what was not? Many eye-witnesses gave conflicted views, while other circumstances were strange in their origins and happening. And while he gave us this, Oliver Stone also presented us with the best film that he has yet made, and his resume is incredible as it is.

I have seen the films "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July": films that Oliver Stone won Best Director for. Why did he not win for "JFK"? Why did it only win 2 Oscars? For me, it is another example of how disappointing the Oscar results can be. I urge all to see this epic film of mystery and deceit, of truth and lies, the work of a master film director known as Oliver Stone.
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Young Guns II (1990)
A worthy sequel blazing with action!
30 November 2007
Billy the Kid, played once again by Emilio Estevez, has found other allies, and is riding through New Mexico, pursued by the law, and those outside the law. His new friends? Pat Garrett and Arkansas Dave, played by William Peterson and Christian Slater, respectively. Also joining Billy's side is a young boy by the name of Tom O'Folliard (Balthazar Getty). However, there is news to Billy: his testimony is wanted against Murphy's old goons from the first film. He accepts, in exchange for a full pardon of his crimes.

What he discovers is that it was a setup by the Irish politicians of Lincoln. Breaking free, Billy releases the remaining Regulators from the last film. Doc (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) return to Billy's side after a breakout of Lincoln.

Preparing to go for Mexico, Billy's group is swelled by Henry William French (Alan Ruck), and it is then that Pat Garrett heads off his own way. The group heads out, and Garrett is hired to shoot Billy the Kid dead. What follows is a blaze across the West, a race between two groups, and internal conflict between the individual characters in Billy's group.

The film is truly a good sequel: one might think it is not as good as the original, but there is something new about this film. With the additions of such good characters as James Cobourn, Alan Ruck, and Christian Slater, coupled with the talents of the old cast, the film is vitalized to a level excelling the original. The music is definitely superior to the first film, and Jon Bon Jovi truly made a classic song for this film ("Blaze of Glory"). The characters are as colourful as in the first one, and the acting is great. Plus, the storyline of the sequel opens up new fields to explore, and expand on those left behind by the first film.

Say what you want about the film, I believe that it is certainly equal to the original "Young Guns", and maybe even pulls ahead in certain area. Certainly the music is much better, and the action is just as fiery and electric, and the actors are young and very talented.

Truly a classic film.
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This is one of the best Kubrick films I have seen yet.
20 October 2007
"A Clockwork Orange" was always a book and a movie that were both forbidden due to extreme violence and coarse matter. Like any young guy, I acquired an interest to see it one day.

So now, as a teen, I can say that I have read the book, and also seen the movie. The book is one of the best novels I have read yet. It is amazing how foresighted and smart Anthony Burgess was in making such a book. Then, who decides to make it a movie? Stanley Kubrick. I had seen some of his other films, and I was eager to see "A Clockwork Orange".

The film is a very good film, most especially thanks to the talented Malcolm MacDowell, the directing skills of Kubrick, and the story itself.

Malcolm gives such an amazing act as the villainous youth Alex de Large, who is a youth in a futuristic England, where hoods and teens rule the night streets with a savage immorality. Rape, violence, and rebellion are the order of the day, and Alex loves it. Then he is apprehended by the police, and his journey leads him to a dreadful new experiment. I would have to say that I could not imagine anyone apart from Ewan Macgregor (TRAINSPOTTING) that could even match to the stunning, Oscar-worthy performance of MacDowell.

Kubrick is a very good director, who ranks alongside Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese as my three favourite directors. His films inspire thought, interest, and entertainment. His methods of direction truly pay off in this adaptation to "A Clockwork Orange". It's a pity that he was soon to be despised as a reclusive pervert from this film. He did an amazing job, and I admire him for it.

Finally, the last but not least credit must go to the cleverness of the original creator of "A Clockwork Orange". Burgess' novel is wonderful, and for the most part, the movie takes the ideas of the novel correctly. One error would have to be the cutting of Burgess' original novel, but that is not Kubrick's fault, as the American version of the novel is made that way. It would have been nice to see the original ending in the novel, but this is a minor complaint.

This movie really appeals to youth, and it is a great movie to see. If I had to pick the best films of Kubrick's career, I would hail "Eyes Wide Shut", "Barry Lyndon", and "A Clockwork Orange" as the best films he ever made. Thank you Kubrick, thank you MacDowell, and thank you Burgess, for the genius that is "A Clockwork Orange".
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A Legendary Film from a Legendary Director
18 October 2007
I have heard from people I know that "Eyes Wide Shut" is either a great film or a bad movie. Having seen it myself, I would say that this is one of Kubrick's best. The film deals with the topics of sex, trust, secrets, and temptation.

Tom Cruise plays a doctor, married with a seven-year-old daughter in New York City. He takes his wonderful life for granted, until his wife admits to have almost cheated on him. Stunned by this piece of news, he is drawn into a dark world of temptation, whether it is with a prostitute, or with his patients' daughter. Finally, he is drawn to this mysterious mansion where an orgy of masked people satisfy their lust.

In the discussion of art and filming, this movie is a masterpiece. The atmosphere is so mysterious, so dark, and very strange. There are some scenes that sent shivers down my spine. One thing I liked in particular was the conversations Tom Cruise's character had with characters such as the hotel clerk, the Russian store owner, and his old friend.

One disappointment was Nicole Kidman. I just did not like her in this film, for a number of reasons. Her acting did not impress me as much as Tom's did. I was glad that much of the scenes were focused on Tom Cruise's character rather than Nicole's. She is probably the biggest reason that I would rate the film 9 out of 10 rather than 10 out of 10.

However, it is a very good film overall. Stanley Kubrick died believing that he had made the best movie of his life with "Eyes Wide Shut". I'd say he was not too far from the truth. This film is brilliant, and it is a pity that it was not as appreciated as it should be.
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Dreamgirls (2006)
Hard to say...
9 June 2007
When Stanley Kubrick was busy with his sex-exploring film "Eyes Wide Shut", people expected a blazing erotic passion throughout the film. When the film turned out to be a slow exploration of themes concerning sex, the audiences were frustrated, and liked it less as a result of it not being what was expected.

I never entirely understood why this was so, but now I get it. This is my opinion on "Dreamgirls". I was expecting something like "Ray"; an almost-accurate portrayal of the Supremes. What I saw was a fictionalized musical. Don't get me wrong, I liked Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson in this film, and they both deserved their nominations (Which is far more than I can say about Alan Arkin's win). The music was very well done, and the cutthroat music business run by Jamie Foxx' character was cleverly done.

Due to my realization at it not being what I had thought it was, I watched the film with a bit of a biased look. The music was well done, but I didn't like it when the beginnings of some songs were portrayed as conversation. It frustrated me a bit, but I have no bad opinion about either Hudson's or Murphy's singing, the latter of which surprised me.

Do not go into this film expecting a historical account like "Ray"; expect something more along the lines of "Fiddler on the Roof"; a musical set in a past era of troubles and mistrust.
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Rocky II (1979)
It balanced out very well...
26 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The reason I vote this film 9 out of 10, as I did with "Rocky", is that this film balances out incredibly well. The balance of these films is the reason I vote them so high. Allow me to explain.

The first hour or so of "Rocky Two" was very painful to watch. Not because of the actors or direction, but the story line. I frowned when Rocky and Adrian are just buying on impulse, wasting a lot of money, but the part that really hurt was when Rocky is dressed as a caveman and is doing commercials. That part was humiliating to the character, and it shows how famous people making commercials can turn into something absolutely stupid.

However, the rest of the film was very well done. Sly is the obviously ideal Rocky, Talia is in her element, and the supporting characters are all good. Carl Weathers was on the fence in my opinion, because I didn't like the way he talked of himself in the first person. In my opinion, he was much better in "Rocky 3".

The movie was at its best up to when Adrian wakes up from her coma and tells Rocky to fight Apollo Creed again. The training scenes are always my favourite parts of the "Rocky" movies, as are the final fights. The music is amazing, the training believable, and they completely balance out the films.

"Rocky Two" is a great movie to watch, as are the first and third of the series. Indeed, I think this saga will always stand with such series as "The Godfather", "Lord of the Rings", "Batman", and those other series that will forever be watched by generations to come.
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Platoon (1986)
A great cast, a great director, a great score: a great movie!
7 January 2007
"Platoon" is one of those films where you really feel like you understand the topic better. The film is almost like a documentary, as Oliver Stone based the script on his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. The characters in the movie are based on real people he met while during his time in the battlefields and fox holes.

The three elements that make this movie great are listed in the title. Those three things are the score, the director, and the cast. The score of this movie is very haunting and powerful, taking you to the atmosphere of the film. Some might argue that is over-used, but I don't mind at all. The main theme is incredible, filled with a sorrow. Having also watched "The War at Home", I would say that the score bears some resemblance to the main theme in "Platoon". The songs used are also very smart choices. Examples are "White Rabbit", and "Tracks of My Tears".

For the director's role, only a Vietnam veteran could have done such a good job (except for maybe Steven Spielberg). Oliver Stone put his heart, soul, and his past into this film. The characters in the platoon are based on real people that Oliver had known in Vietnam. The central character of Chris is based on himself. This was a struggle to make, and his hard work paid off, in the form of an Oscar, and in the box office success of the film.

The cast is a young one, a cast that had a lot of promise. It was a cast of wide variety. Some were established TV actors, like Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe. Others had older relations in the film business, like Kevin Dillon and Francesco Quinn. Some, like Forest Whitaker and Keith David, would go on to continue a mediocre film career. Still others were unknown at the time,but would soon rise high, like Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen. Behind the scenes, they were trained in army-fashion, they were only spoken to by their character names, and they grew very resentful of it by the time that filming started. What then resulted was a very convincing bunch of acting, and the movie goes up many notches because of it.

Special mention should go to all of them, but some really up there include the three main stars. Charlie Sheen is a naive volunteer who grows up in the face of war. Berenger and Dafoe play the two main sergeants of the platoon, and they are constantly on edge with each other. Dafoe is a decent person who realizes that this will be a defeat for his country. Berenger is the soldier's soldier: a hardened killer who is almost tunnel-visioned in his efforts in the war. Then there's the men of the platoon. Francesco Quinn is Rhah, the drug addict who is also very streetwise in the platoon's 'politics'. Kevin Dillon is Bunny, a flawless example of how war makes young teenagers into rapists, killers, or worse, corpses.

"Platoon" is an eye-opener for those who know very little of the Vietnam War. The movie shows what the soldiers went through for a country in which many had almost no future. It is almost a romantic tragedy, the way it plays out, and is a powerfully emotional piece of cinema.
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Sharpe's Waterloo (1997 TV Movie)
Great. Just make it more like the book
24 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A great ending to the Richard Sharpe series. I am an enormous fan of the books by Bernard Cornwell, and I have read all 20 of them. I have also seen some of the episodes, Waterloo among them. Sean Bean is without doubt an amazing and talented actor, and Daragh O' Malley is the perfect sidekick. John Tams as Hagman is my favorite rifleman (besides Sharpe and Harper), episode and book.

Some minor things though. Waterloo would have made a ten out of ten had it been more like the book and more specific on some of the characters' fates.

The episode is awesome, but in some scenes, they would have made it look better had they involved more men, as in, more soldiers and battalions. But that is only a small thing. Another thing is that they wrapped up a few things without too much detail. For example, (spoiler) when the Prince is shot, they made it look as if he had died. Not true though. In the book and in reality, he was only wounded. Also, they could have put in the details (from the book) of Sharpe being approached, saying that Rossendale had died and Jane was waiting for the news about the battle. Sharpe laughs sourly, saying he wont be the one to tell, because he doesn't give a dime about her. That would have confirmed the fate of Jane better, and the Prince's.

All that aside, this is an incredible episode, and I recommend it to all who are wondering whether Sharpe is worth it.
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